Man jailed for neglect of over 200 animals at Surrey farm

A man has been jailed after over 200 animals were found living in poor conditions on a farm in Surrey, in what the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) has called ‘one of the UK’s biggest ever animal rescue operations’.

The man – believed to be a farmer – was sentenced to 19 weeks in prison at Guildford Crown Court on October 15.

Having previously pleaded guilty to two offences under the Animal Welfare Act and six offences of failing to dispose of animal by-products, he was also disqualified from keeping all animals for life.

He was found to have caused unnecessary suffering to two horses and one goat, and for failing to meet the needs of 171 animals – including 131 horses, 33 dogs, two alpacas and five birds.

RSPCA’s Special Operations Unit (SOU) case officer Kirsty Withnall – who coordinated the huge rescue mission and led the investigation – said:

This was a huge multi-agency rescue mission which was the culmination of weeks of planning and evidence gathering.

“In total, there were 100 staff from different agencies working on the case to help round up the animals [Guildford Borough Council, Bucks and Surrey Trading Standards, Bransby Horses, Redwings, The Horse Trust, The Donkey Sanctuary, World Horse Welfare, Dogs Trust and a number of vets].

“It took almost 12 hours on the day to assess all of the animals, load them into horse boxes and animal ambulances, and move them off-site; making it one of the biggest coordinated rescue missions the UK has ever seen.”

Over 200 animals found

Following an investigation by SOU into concerns for the welfare of horses on the site, Surrey Police executed a warrant at the Surrey farm on January 9, 2019, finding a total of 204 animals.

Herds of ponies, many riddled with worms, were living in fields with hazardous metal and broken fencing sticking up from thick mud. Inside two barns were pens full with donkeys, goats, alpacas and ponies, many of which were standing on top of waste and faeces, were skinny and had underlying health conditions.

Dozens of dogs – some heavily pregnant – were found chained and tethered on a filthy yard, while others were shut inside tiny cramped cages or makeshift kennels.

Two ponies were starving, suffering from cyathostominosis (a disease caused by parasites) in one pen and a goat collapsed in another; these three animals were put to sleep at the scene to prevent further suffering.

The remaining 201 animals, comprising 129 horses and donkeys, 59 dogs, three alpacas, five goats, four chickens and one duck, were taken for appropriate care.

14 horses who were weak, emaciated, had serious worm burdens and were suffering from cyathostominosis died, or were subsequently put to sleep on veterinary advice.

Two dogs and one goat were also put to sleep, and one chicken and duck died.

Born under charity care were twenty foals (two stillborn) six goat kids, one alpaca and nine puppies, two of which died shortly after birth.

Commenting on the case, PC Hollie Iribar from Surrey Police said: “As a Rural and Wildlife Crime Officer for Surrey Police, I have witnessed some devastating acts of animal cruelty over the years.

This was one of the most difficult cases I’ve seen, and I’m grateful to the RSPCA and our other partner agencies for the hard work put in to bring this case to trial.

“I’m very glad that this heartbreaking case has seen a resolution in the courts, and that the animals involved were rescued and given a second chance at a happy and healthy life.”

Sentencing the man, the court recorder said: “They will show you responsibility and care [in prison] many times greater than you showed the animals in your care.”